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Senators Lankford, Rubio Urge President Trump To Quickly Nominate Ambassador for International Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) today led a Senate letter to President Trump and Secretary Rex Tillerson urging the prioritization of the nomination of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom within the State Department. Considering the extreme religious persecution around the world, the Senators expressed the urgent need to have a diplomatic advocate in the State Department working to protect and advance religious freedom abroad. The letter was sent shortly after Mr. Tillerson was confirmed as Secretary of State by the Senate with bipartisan support. 

Lankford and Rubio were joined by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Steve Daines (R-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), and James Risch (R-ID).

A PDF of the letter is available here, and the full text is below:

February 1, 2017

President Donald Trump

The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20500

 

CC: The Honorable Rex Tillerson, Secretary, U.S. State Department

 

Dear Mr. President: 

        As of January 20, 2017, the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom position within the State Department, is now vacant. 

        Given the extreme persecution of religious groups around the world, including the genocide of Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims at the hand of ISIS, we urge you to act quickly to nominate an Ambassador-at-Large.

        The nominee must have significant foreign policy experience and understand the relationship between religious freedom and national security. It is also critical that the Ambassador is vested with the authority and the resources necessary for success.  As mandated by the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act (P.L. 114-281), this bipartisan law requires that the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom “shall report directly to the Secretary of State,” rather than being buried in the bureaucracy of the Department, underscoring the centrality of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy. Additionally, we are committed to ensuring that funding for this crucial position and the work of the Office of International Religious Freedom remains a priority.

          The promotion of the freedom of religion – the right to practice any faith or to choose no faith at all –as a fundamental human right, is a proven source of stability for all countries.  As such, the mission of the Office of International Religious Freedom should be to promote religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. 

           Under previous administrations, this position was not immediately filled and the prolonged vacancy sent a message that religious freedom was not a priority of the United States government. 

           We encourage you to nominate an Ambassador-at-Large not only to ensure that the key value of religious freedom is protected, but to show that religious freedom is a priority for our government. 

        Thank you for your attention to this important matter. 

 

Sincerely,

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)

Senator John Boozman (R-AR)

Senator Todd Young (R-IN)

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)

Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)

Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)

Senator James Risch (R-ID)

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